The European Commission recently announced further plans to boost Europe’s level of digital skills – an urgent necessity given that 90 percent of future jobs will require some level of digital literacy, yet almost half of Europeans lack even basic digital skills. Engagement with women and girls is a particular area of concern; currently, women make up just one third of Europe’s ICT workforce.
Microsoft research has traced the source of this gap back to young girls losing interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects sometime between the ages of 11 and 15. One of the main causes of this is a lack of visible female role models. To reverse the trend, we need to celebrate and champion young women making their mark on the digital world; young women like Tara Ojo, a software engineer at FutureLearn.
Ahead of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Tara joined Microsoft, UNESCO and Ciné-ONU (United Nations Cinema) at a screening of CODEGIRL, to discuss ways to encourage greater female interest in technology careers.
Tara’s message? For anyone with a passion for coding, the possibilities are endless. Tara reminded the audience that, at the start of the computer era, most programmers were women. Half a century on, women have the chance to shape a new era of digital disruption and tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges. In short, for any woman seeking to make a difference, a career in technology can be incredibly empowering.
“Remember that most of the first programmers were women. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it! Go out, learn to code and be amazing.” – Tara Ojo
Tara’s call to action was a reminder of all the positive contributions women have made to the tech sector so far – and all the potential they have to do so in future. During World War Two, young women at Bletchley Park cracked the Enigma code and helped end the war. In the 1960s, Margaret Hamilton wrote the mathematical algorithms that put a man on the moon, marking a new era in space exploration. Now, we’re on the edge of a new digital era. Who can say where the next generation of female coders will take us? Wherever it is, it’s sure to be an adventure.